NATO, which assisted rebels in Libya during the successful uprising there, has so far resisted calls for a similar campaign in Syria, where Bashar al-Assad continues his murderous assaults against Homs and other cities where rebels have gained a foothold. Russia and China, meanwhile, in a clear attempt to prevent a NATO bombing campaign against their Syrian ally, are demanding that NATO apologize for civilian casualties during the Libya campaign. I’m always hesitant to recommend that the United States enter into combat, but where there is clear evidence of war crimes, as there certainly is in Syria, military action by NATO may be the only hope of limiting the human rights catastrophe now unfolding.
The Weiner affair got me thinking about how people use the modern communication tools at our disposal. For good or ill, we are connected in ways we never were before. Social networking sites like Twitter have been rightly praised for their impact on authoritarian societies, where dictators have been unable to stop the spread of information and the ability of citizens to organize large numbers of people. In a mature democracy like ours, the political uses seem to be somewhat less laudable.
The Arab Spring that has toppled dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt, and is spreading to many parts of the Islamic world, may yet fail to produce productive change in Libya, Syria, Yemen and other places to which it has spread–at least in the short term. Dictators like to stay in power, and dictators like Qaddafi and Assad are willing to kill any number of their own people rather than leave. In the long run, though, the success of revolutions in other places will inevitably weaken even the most powerful strongmen.
I couldn’t resist this one. In the Arab world and wherever else there’s a popular revolt against autocratic rule, it’s the dictator who ultimately flees. Not so in this country, evidently. In Wisconsin, where Republican Governor Scott Walker has proposed outrageously punitive restrictions of collective bargaining rights for select public unions, sparking massive demonstrations, it’s the Democratic supporters of the unions who have fled to avoid a vote on the measures.
What Walker has proposed will certainly pass the GOP-controlled legislature when the Dems return. It’s a union-busting package, pure and simple, having nothing whatever to do with balancing the budget. In fact, the unions have already agreed to the proposed salary and pension cuts, but this is driven not by budget necessity, but by the reflexive Republican hatred of unions. It would be a little easier to swallow if the pain were spread equally, but the bill unfairly selects only those public unions that have traditionally supported Democrats and spares those that have not. Teachers get the axe, but Republican-leaning police and fire unions are spared. So much for sharing the burden.
Worse, this is a trial run for Republican governors in other states who are salivating at the chance to decimate their own public unions. After a few more years of this kind of authoritarian rule, will Americans rise up and throw the bums out? One can only hope. In the meantime, the wrong people are being forced to flee.